( January 15, 2017, Boston, Sri Lanka Guardian) Nestled deep within the foothills of the Himalayas, Jhamtse Gatsai is one of the most extraordinary and inspiring communities you’re likely to witness. It’s led by Buddhist Monk Lobsang, a renowned spiritual teacher who works to create a reality of love and acceptance for children who have been abused or orphaned. Tashi and the Monk follows that mission as it relates to one of the newest arrivals to his commune – a reluctant five-year old girl who’s endured unimaginable neglect and tragedy during her brief life. By the time Tashi enters the community, she has suffered the death of her mother and abandonment by her alcoholic father. The youngest resident, she is ill-tempered and aggressive with many of her adolescent co-habitants.
Lobsang’s approach does not rely on professional psychologists, prescription medications or any of the often misguided remedies set forth by modern medicine. He’s more interested in building an environment that nourishes the soul. With tremendous patience and a graceful, calming manner, he empowers Tashi and the more than 80 additional children under his counsel to appreciate the gift that is their lives. He infuses them with a generosity of spirit and a shared sense of purpose, and unlocks within them an awareness of their own potential.
Tashi’s journey is intercut with scenes of Lobsang as he rallies the support of his teenaged residents to act as mentors to the newcomers, and as he gently declines the pleas of several families who beg for his assistance with their own wayward children. He’s operating on limited resources, and he cannot jeopardize the delicate sanctity of the environment he’s cultivated. We learn of the struggles he suffered through his own suppressive upbringing, and his initial inspirations for creating the commune after serving under the tutelage of the Dalai Lama.
From the splendid photography of its awe-inspiring natural setting to its appealing musical score, the technical aspects of the film are uniformly impressive. But the beating heart of Tashi and the Monk – and the reason why it will linger with viewers long after its conclusion – is the rare opportunity to see a child find her hope again. It’s a touching tribute to the transformative power of compassion.